Category Archives: Coaching

F2 Developing Culture By Extending Coaching Capability

My second session of the day is with Paula Ashfield, Head of Learning and Danone, and Gaelle Tuffigo, Learning and OD Specialist and Anthony Newman, Director of Brand, Comms and Marketing at Cancer Research UK providing their organisational case studies of how they developed culture by extending coaching capability.

Ian Pettrigew (Chair) opens the session and asks us to think about what we want to get from the session, and the room is alive with the buzz of peoples intentions to leave with some learning.

Cancer Research UK

Our first speakers are Anthony and Gaelle…[I’ll write as ‘one’ speaker as they’re interchanging]
Cancer Research are the words largest origination research all types of cancer with a aim to: Prevent, Diagnose, Treat and Optimise (treatments).

Anthony start with WHY did they focus on developing culture this way:
They’re already high performing, well respected around the world, and rate high in engagement scores, and they have a “nice” (from the feedback) strengths-based culture. HOWEVER, improvements can be made: There are pockets where performance could be addressed better, and we have high turn over in some areas, people aren’t always loving the relationship with their manager…feeling disempowered, e.g. “a parent-child culture”. People feel looked after but not enabled to grow.

At the same time Cancer Research UK were doing a Fit for the Future campaign…

Anthony emphasises that their action to resolve this was guided first bit ensuring that L+D strategy fits to the business strategy.

The solutions:
Coaching approaches empower and enable people to act autonomously, and move away from directive management
Improve retention by focusing on the purpose and value of every individual

The challenge:
People feel they’ve already done this – but it only got applied for senior leaders and ‘heads’ of
“we’re doing it already, we don’t need this training” – confused with what coaching is, and what mentoring is

The route map…

What Gaelle did…

Nail your business case – do good secondary research and find evidence to back up what you intend to apply in practice, don’t just rely on your influencing skills
Secure a sponsor – get the right one, not just ‘a sponsor’
Socialise the approach within the business –

The difference between coaching and mentoring…? Coaching is drawing out, Mentoring is putting in. They wanted a blend of the 2

Aim: To equip everyone in Cancer Research UK to use coaching conversation throughout their working relationships: in the lift, in the kitchen, in 1:1s, in meetings.

Priority = coaching a management style

5 point plan…

• Training action learning set facilitators, and enable them to train others in facilitating these.
• Career and talent development coaching for people who want to stay, grow within, or leave and move on
• Maximised their volunteers – found what skills they have and invited some to be mentors
• Coaching resources available on the intranet, including tools
• A pack for managers to deliver learning – all about coaching, why and what – to their teams
• A group on yammer for exchanging tips and sharing examples

How does it align to the business…

Antony starts to talk about metrics, how important this is for the organisation (and any org) and the challenges they’ve faced. Have you every had the experience of implementing something then when it’s done, been asked to retrospectively measure something? He shares something they didn’t win: they tried to show the impact of coaching upon performance management, but the engagement measurement tool agreed upon didn’t ask people about being coached or their experience. How can you asked people questions about coaching if they don’t know what coaching is? There are so many different definitions.

“I would never say…If you can’t measure something don’t bother doing it” otherwise you might miss a huge opportunity. It’s an add-on not a art point. Don’t let it define what you do.

What they did do…

Record the Impact: when they interview people asking about their experience and opinions of how the coaching and mentoring has impacted them, they gained qualitative data that supported their original aim.

Biggest learning point to share… “There is a big difference between agreement and commitment” – they had agreement, but this didn’t always transfer into commitment.

Danone UK

Paula is a lot further ahead on the coaching culture journey, and she focuses on a sub-business ‘Danone Nutricia’ (early life nutrition) who provide Cow and Gate, and Actimel which has a really strong core purpose built of a history of science and expertise.

What were you doing in 2011? What happened for you? 2011 is known as the year that things happened – Paul suggests we google it. Their were signification stockmarket drops and the word of business was struggling, whilst at Danone Nutricia they were doing ok: growth dropped from 18% (2009) to 8% (2011). You might have expected this was positive, to thrive in this climate. However there was not buzz, only a committed drive to sustain filled the organisation.

Hot Spots – Book by Linda Gratton. Analogy of a thermal image of you business. If you could thermal image your business what would it look like?
Green – routine, things happen, but not much buzz
Ice-Blue – when green for too long, things get harder, energy drops
They were looking to fine the glow spots…

“ambition was to spread a nuclear thermo Mexican wave – growth glow”

The sosiblitliy fo business and possibilities to talent

Heads were down and full of purpose and people were busy doing. Thats what they knew. They was comfortable “a comfort blanket”

To take a bold step forward they first needed to establish trust. Coaching has been used in pockets – and its impact was an innate belief that it worked in developing trust. So they sought reports and evidence based to support their strategy.

Coaching was going to be the enabler to trust. With patience, and space.
They had a clear impact about how implementing a coaching culture would impact the business, the people, the growth and the buzz. This was defined and understand from the beginning.

1. Set Expectations 2011

  • individual development plan, giving manger basic coaching skills to start using coaching conversations (programmes available to EVERYONE) and learn together, helped people see learning isn’t just in the training room.

2. Create Momentum 2012

  • tsunami of coaching effort that hit the business and pervaded everyone in someway or form: accredited all senior leaders as business coaches (22 people in total). In stead of a pilot, they ALL when through this at the same time together on a 6 month programme. It created a profound effect on the business. It had significant amounts of practice and by learning together in this group we coached each other and provide peer support to each others development. Result: coaching cross functionally, coaching peers. We understood more about each others teams that the person leading that team. Increased trust, collaboration and shared responsibility. Whist you’re doing this, you’re gaining insights from across the organisation and learning the business.

3. Embedding 2014

  • hold tight, dig in, trust the process, keep your nerve and persist
  • made in part of a graduate development programme
  • ensured field workers were using

4. Renewal 2015 (its embedded)

  • develop internal coaches – qualifications
    challenge: keeping track of all relationships going on, to ensure ethics and standards
  • The programme…

Key Learning…

  • If those senior leaders ‘failed’ the accreditation (not everyone did first time) and the organisation believes in those people, they will continue their development until they achieve the pass. Everyone is now accredited.
  • our L+D spend has reduced, because we re-invested into the organisation
  • their L+D team use coaching skills throughout their whole role: consultancy, identifying needs, stakeholder engagement


What an exceptional example of how to tell a story! Thank you Paula.
[This blog was written live in session at the CIPD Learning and Development Show 2016, Olympia, London on Thursday 12th May. My intention is to capture a faithful summary of the session highlights, but my own bias and views will undoubtedly contribute to the tapestry of this story. Please excuse any typos, and don’t hesitate to join the conversation on Twitter with me @Jo_Coaches and the blog-squad #cipdldshow]



The recent CIPD report on wellbeing is telling us that absence costs organisations £554 per person, per year, on average. That’s a huge loss especially in the non-profit sector where funding is increasing tight. A key message in the report is to increase awareness of the wellbeing gap with only 8% of companies having a dedicated wellbeing and health strategy. I’ve seen evidence of this still being disguised within ‘Absence Management’ with recommended performance management conversations, instead of people focussed conversations. What are we afraid of? Caring about people?

A call from the report is that managers can make decisions with wellbeing in mind; aim to be proactive rather than reactive. To become a regular behaviour this needs to be embedded in the beliefs of those making decisions – that’s everyone – and especially so modelled by those who make more impactful decisions. I’ve also noticed this again recently: what you say is overridden by how you act, the latter being guided by what you believe. You can say that you fully regard wellbeing as important in your decision making, and then… your decision making will speak for itself.

There are many different types of people who turn up for work. I get that some just want a job they can turn up, do, go home (however, when you’re dedicated to developing others this is a hard one. I do think there is always room for growth. It’s just not always obvious what is, or what/where the need and motivation lies).

I’m very lucky to be surrounded by a team of Learning and Development Advisors hired for attitude, passion for Addaction and good learning and a drive for excellence in their practise. Very fortunate, or good recruitment. And I wonder about when people are too engaged. What does that mean for wellbeing? When people are driven with a sharp work ethic and commitment to high performance. It means supporting a mid-morning break for yoga class, or taking their partner to Cornwall whilst they deliver training down there, or having a lie-in and logging on at the right time for them (whether that’s 6am, 1pm or sunday afternoon) or logging off at 3pm because they’re burned for the day; playing to your own energy. Make work work for you. We recently had two new additions to the team, who fully fit the dedication described above. Yet during induction with each as we discussed expectations, and they felt the shift (I saw this physically manifest in a mixture of relief, ease and discomfort) from their previous way of working I found myself reflecting on how ‘lazy’ it sounds to someone looking in. As I’m writing this I’m wondering what you’re thinking too. A brilliant CIPD bod said to me yesterday on requesting input for a media article that he wanted examples of “‘how-tos’ from organisations who genuinely do”. Don’t just read Pink, Coplin, Covey, Kline (or whoever’s thoughts fill you with inspiration) do it.

The thing is, I’ve spent a lot of time in 1:1s talking about wellbeing, and self-care. Questions like: Looking at your calendar for this month (self-planned), would you plan that for your colleague? when you do those 3 consecutive days of delivery with overnight stays, when are you going to take your TOIL back? What will you do to debrief and relax after each day when you’re away? What time is too early for getting up in the morning…what’s another option?

It strikes me that wellbeing begins with wellbeing for yourself. Self-care, consideration and attention to mainting our own energies (ref Coveys First Things First) for the fire within to be at its brightest and for our actions to be ‘true north’; aligned and representative of our believes, about wellbeing. About my wellbeing. And about your wellbeing.

[Late] It’s been a year 

If I’d have known this time last year what I know now…I’m not sure I would have had the courage for 2015. But luckily I didn’t know, and much to my surprise, I did find the courage. So thank you 2015.

Someone said to me today “coaching isn’t always useful as people don’t necessarily know what their goals are”. I publicly apologise to coaching because considering the two topics we’d already covered I didn’t have the energy to stand for you, and so pleasantly explain “but that’s not coaching”. Well it can be. But the best stuff in my experience can emerge from having no coaching goals at all. Goal setting is just one option. I’d argue that you don’t even need to know why you’re there. And even when you do, it might actually end up being a whole different reason in the end. When you pause, reflect and look back. This is actually the same for my masters study. The space and time to think I experienced as a coachee this year has given me so much – I made changes I didn’t know I wanted/could make.

Being the coach has also featured heavily in 2015. Meeting some remarkable people and getting to know them. Learning to honour more difference. Learning to flex and flow within coaching. Learning ease, to soothe my own urgency, to listen with 100% attention and appreciation for the person with me. You have been amazing. You still are.

I was part of making the ‘largest merger of our sector’ a resounding success. I have to say it didn’t feel like that during, and it still feels ongoing, but I’ll take that evaluation as indicative of hard work and dedication paying off. The merger also saw every central services team restructured, apart from L+D. In fact 2016 starts with 2 new L+Ders at Addaction – fantastic! I say L+Ders, because I know they will be.

I’m ending the year in a new house, a new home, with a Christmas tree made of books, and so far two superbly comfy chairs that have been kindly gifted by two very generous friends.  Thank you. 


The other night I attended the ‘2nd Inaugural’ lecture of Paul Gilbert at the University of Derby. I have to admit that my fatigue and the fact the organiser requested our arrival for a “prompt start” whilst starting 10mins late left me redirecting my attitude from ‘come on then….tell me something new and outstanding’.

You can find out more about Paul Gilbert here. He’s a Clinical Psyhcologist who started his academic career in Economics, and has now established a centre for research in Compassion Therapy. A post grad course is also now available at Derby Uni. I wonder about specialist therapists when I’m drawn towards eclectic coaching.

I went to the lecture for a few reasons:

1. I believe in the power of compassion, demonstrating it, receiving it,  noticing it.

2. I’m still not sure about how people everyday define the difference between empathy and compassion but I think it matters and that both are essential, and powerful in a mostly good way

3. Most therapeutic approaches I come across have valuable application in my coaching practice

4. Or maybe it was just that I had nothing better to do… And there was free wine

Gilbert defines compassion as “behaviour that aims to nurture, look after, teach, guide, mentor, soothe, protect, offer feelings of acceptance and belonging in order to benefit another person”

Requiring 2 psychologies of us:

COURAGE – to look and truly see another persons suffering

DEDICATION – the desire to help relieve it

That courage strikes me; I feel that definition. It resonates and explains, and soothes. Then, similar to when you learn a new word and consequently hear it everywhere. Or you buy a new car and the fact it’s in your conscious thought means you spot the same model repeatedly. I find myself noticing compassion. Or am I seeking it.

Talking to a friend about his friend in hospital, suffering, and I’m hearing how he’s seeing this, and how this friend is too young. And yet when are we ever old enough or ready for that? He doesn’t look away, instead he steps towards. It’s sad, and also I feel warmed by his courage. Because if not you, who? Life is simply richer with compassionate people around.

Later during a thinking pair session I’m hearing my thinking partner talk about giving time and attention to her business and why she does what she does. The drive and selfless desire to move towards injustice in the workplace, and work only where that can by applied. I appreciate her dedication.

It’s easier when we notice the suffering of others, to walk by, to empathise and then let that empathy float by. We have our own stuff going off. It’s easy to feel something, whether that’s discomfort, worry, anxiety, fear when someone else is suffering, and…well, what do you do with that?

What makes us move towards?

He said “Because I can’t imagine doing anything else”

What was it about these two people. How do they chose so quickly and easily that towards the discomfort, towards showing love, towards acceptance and understanding is their default direction?

Gilbert went on to describe compassion therapy and what became clear is that whilst compassion breeds compassion (with a known body of research demonstrating that behaviour lacking compassion clearly supports further behaviours lacking compassion, empathy, love) it starts with the self. Compassion for yourself.

Self-Compassion means having the courage to look into your own suffering and truly see it, with a dedication to doing what you can, and finding a way to sooth it. It means to nurture, to protect, and to accept yourself. And perhaps the latter is first! Acceptance before change, before self-mastery.

As humans we have 3 evolved emotions systems of Threat, Soothing and Drive. Compassion therapy starts with growing the capacity to self-sooth by overriding your vagus parasympathetic nervous responses; using your Soothing emotion system to reduce your Threat emotion system. This can start with practicing physiological exercises that stimulate this soothing centre (your sympathetic nervous system) such as long slow breathing, tapping out/counting breathing. Later in the therapy this leads to soothing thoughts and self-talk. Gilbert suggests that just as we can salivate from only thinking about food, or become aroused from just thinking about sex, we can cultivate compassion through attending to thinking about it.

I think of holistic yoga practice that incorporates flows with breathing and meditations.

Gilbert opines that the practice of doing these therapeutic exercises is itself is an act of self-compassion, and thus cultivates your Drive emotion system. Compassion becomes something that is sought. (For Drive system think needs and motivation).

Actually though, it doesn’t matter where you start, because looking outward to notice compassion will have a boomerang effect.
So what are you thinking about now?

When did you last demonstrate compassion? Remember that for a moment.

Imagine you’re your most compassionate self …what would you be like?

And please don’t be fooled that all this compassion and emotional mastery is for the soft minded. To step towards and to look deeply is actually the hardest way to be. It’s a choice.


Sometimes I forget to listen.

Sometimes I’m so caught up with my own agenda, I forget to hear yours.

Sometimes, I care so much I want to take away your problem. I have so many solutions, I think I know what’s best for you. What you should do. I forget it’s your problem.

Sometimes I’m thinking about what to say next. What question. What direction. I forget that you’re leading.

Sometimes I recognise your problem. It’s familiar, I’ve heard it before

Then I pause, and I remind myself to ‘just listen’ and that which was feeling difficult, becomes easy again.

Empathy II

I’m not afraid of public speaking

In fact, if you say ‘Go’!

Right now

There are 2 things I would talk about – in no priority order

1. Is alcohol…everything about it

2. Is empathy…everything about it

Whilst it used to be my naive ambition to “reduce crime and stop child abuse”, now my passions lie firmly in the two items above. I got wise and gave up on the original ambition. Or …?

What is empathy?

You can define it

You can learn it

You can express it

But you’ll only truly understand it’s power when you feel it. That moment when another person expresses it in an attempt to test a hypothesis about how you’re feeling right now. Or about how that is or was for you. When someone listens and truly sees you. Makes the effort to truly see the part of you that is real and not yet seen. That blow to the gut. That good vulnerability. You’re accepted. You’re understood. You’re valued.

Thank you for that.

You didn’t feel what I felt – how could you. Nor did you attempt to. Your imagination was guided by your ability to notice everything I was communicating. In the safety and mutuality created when the power has moved out of the powerful and into the space between us where empathy passes. You permitted my permission to be me. And so I grew. I changed.

There will be two books: 1. Alcohol. 2. Empathy. Both will be forever here. Making the world go round.

Empathy I

You say it’s innate. We either have it or we don’t. Like a personality trait you can own and admire in others.

Others say it’s learnt. The capacity is innate, in all of us, and in fact just believing it’s learnable will impact how effectively you demonstrate it when the stretch is a little further. A little harder.

You can walk in another’s shoes. See from another’s perspective. Use your imagination to understand how the world looks, feels, lands for that person, over there. What wonder. What richness.

Your sympathy and “sorry for” feelings; your identifying with similarities; self-indulgently hold no strength when it comes your ability to express empathy.

It builds bridges that don’t need crossing. The bridge itself is enough. The attempt to build the bridge is enough. The belief there can be a bridge is…

Empathy opens, connects, warms. Empathy is sharp, it wounds, it can hurt. Ready or not, here it comes.

I’m wondering how you are and knowing enough to see, and when it’s painful I feel it. Even though I don’t want to. I search for the switch. What’s learnt and can be un-learnt.